Fundraiser of the Week: Natasha Dickinson of Fight for Sight

The director of marketing and development at the sight-loss research charity on fairy tales, squeamish donors and the GDPR

Natasha Dickinson
Natasha Dickinson

What is the best thing about your role?

My role here at Fight for Sight is the first I’ve had that encompasses both marketing and communications and fundraising, which certainly makes delivery of activities much less political and much more efficient. Members of my team are totally focused on the dual activities of raising awareness and raising funds, making it more intuitive for us to be able to put our supporters at the heart of everything we do. Galvanising internal support for change or new initiatives is much quicker and silo working feels like a thing of the past.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

In the sight-loss sector only 1 per cent of all the income generated by the general public currently goes towards research to prevent or treat sight loss, with 99 per cent spent on enabling individuals who have experienced sight loss to live independent lives. Although this is valid and extremely important, not losing sight in the first place is likely to have been a better solution. Most people think the largest and most well-known sight-related charities invest in research, but that’s simply not the case. We can’t find cures unless we shift that balance – and we need the financial support of the public to do it because we receive no government funding. We are in the position Cancer Research UK was in 20 years ago, but without the big budgets or established fundraising products. We have to work hard to share this news with the public so that we can find the cures everyone wants. Trying to articulate this need is tricky because people are often squeamish about their eyes, and a lot of people seem to accept that sight loss in later life is a natural part of the ageing process – this isn’t true, and we need to try to encourage people to see us as the answer to this problem.

What’s your favourite book and why?

I love classic fairy tales. Not your prince-meets-princess ones, but the ones that are a little dark, particularly the Hans Christian Andersen stories. I’m loving the fact that I can now revisit them all with my six-year-old daughter, who likes nothing better than a good story. They take you back to simpler times.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I always thought I’d work with animals. Maybe one day I’ll do what I do for an animal charity.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for the sector in the year ahead?

The General Data Protection Regulation dance that every charity is in the middle of – what to do about the data they have and how on earth to reach out and try to gather more – is a particular challenge for smaller charities that don’t have the luxury of enormous databases or decades of data acquisition. Trying to find creative ways to reach new audiences in a meaningful and cost-effective way will be the new challenge, and May 2018 will be the turning point.

What’s the best piece of fundraising advice you’ve ever been given?

Really listen to the insights you’ve gathered on motivations and reasons to support. Your supporters are the best guide, but you’ve got to ask them.

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